Greening the holidays: Reuse, recycle, repurpose

Lisa Neff, Staff writer

The arrival of Black Friday brings on the frenzy: Buy, wrap, waste; then buy more, wrap more, waste more.

So WiG invited a dozen leaders of local, state and national environmental groups — from Audubon Society and Sierra Club chapters to the national Keep America Beautiful — to offer tips to brighten the green in the red and green season.

The consensus:

• Those reusable tote bags aren’t just for groceries. Use them when shopping for gifts. And use them instead of wrapping paper when giving gifts. Another wrapping paper alternative — fabrics or newsprint. 

• If using mail-order shipping, ask the seller — or shipping company — to pack items with paper rather than polystyrene packing peanuts.

• There need not be shame in second-hand. WiG came across a certified pre-owned iPad Mini for under $200 at Gazelle.com and big discounts on unused gift cards at GiftCardGranny.com. 

• For holiday hellos, consider sending e-greetings or reduce the amount of paper by sending postcards instead of greeting cards inside envelopes.

• When decorating, look for natural ornaments (pine cones, shells, dried flowers, berries) and recycled curios (glass, wood, metals, fabrics) rather than items made of non-biodegradable plastics or manufactured using petroleum-based products.

• LED holiday lights use less energy than incandescent bulbs. And there are eco-friendly alternatives to burning paraffin candles. 

• Recycle the Christmas tree. If your community doesn’t recycle trees, use the bulk of the tree for firewood and use the branches for mulch under acid-loving bushes and shrubs, such as evergreens and rhododendrons.

• Recycle electronics. Don’t trash broken or unwanted appliances and electronics or old batteries. Hold onto them to take to an e-scrap collection. And trade smaller items at ecoATM kiosks at shopping malls for cash or coupons. 

• Donate rather than discard items. When new gifts replace working but old possessions, donate them to a charitable cause or give them away. Check out the Freecycle Network at freecycle.org.

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